Officials spotted using restricted busway

Some officials on busway while off-duty

MIAMI – While most drivers sit in traffic on U.S. 1, county employees and others have been spotted using the restricted busway to fly past.

Local 10 spotted an off-duty Broward Sheriff's Office deputy driving down the restricted busway in southwest Miami-Dade County.

"It's wrong because if one of us were on it, we would get a big, fat ticket," said Darrel Jones, a bus rider.

BSO Undersheriff Col. Steve Kinsey said the deputy also appeared to be on the phone.

"If he was also on a cell phone, then that's a separate policy violation that will also be investigated as part of this incident," said Kinsey.

Local 10 also saw Sweetwater and Miami-Dade police cruisers using the busway. The Miami-Dade police sergeant was off duty at the time.

"There's nothing that stipulates that they cannot travel on the busway," said Miami-Dade Police Maj. Nancy Perez.

The 20-mile long busway opened in 1997. County officials said the only document they found stipulating who can be on it said it can be used by buses and authorized vehicles, which includes emergency vehicles.

The document didn't specify between on and off-duty emergency vehicles.

"It is not fair if they're doing it for reasons of avoiding traffic," said Perez.

Perez said it's possible the sergeant was making a difference just by having his car seen. There have been 28 robberies in the area in the last nine months.

But the sergeant's primary duty is a trainer.

"He can slow down so that person can see police activity," said Perez. "That reassures that person."

"That just sounds like a copout," said driver Devin Patterson.

"Usually, they are not looking for a crime when they are out of duty," said Viviana Ortega, a bus rider. "Everyone can use a good excuse."

Also spotted in the busway: a non-emergency Miami-Dade Fire Rescue vehicle. An off-duty employee who was behind the wheel was headed to pick up his personal car.

"I mean, it's not right. They should sit in traffic like everyone else," said another bus driver.

A plasterer for the Miami-Dade Public Works Department was also spotted using the busway as he headed towards his personal car at the end of a shift. Other drivers also were seen using the busway.

"If we can't ride on it, they can't ride on it either," said Jones.

"It's not fair to the rest of the people trying to get where they're going the same way they are," added Patterson.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief David Downey told Local 10's Ross Palombo that as a result of his investigation, they're now looking into what their policy should be.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said there is absolutely no reason any off-duty rescuer should be using the bus lanes.